Internal temperature stalling is one of the most common problems encountered when smoking brisket. A stall can continue for hours and be extremely difficult to traverse.
However, a brisket’s temperature may not only plateau, but even temporarily fall. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including severe stalls caused by excess fat, too much moisture in the smoker, or even adverse weather.
Everything you need to know about why your brisket’s temperature may be lowering, as well as a few ideas and tactics to help reduce the effect, is provided below.
What Causes the Temperature to Drop?
A severe Stall
When smoking meat with a high fat content for extended periods of time at low temperatures, you will ultimately face a temperature stall. It typically occurs when the meat reaches temperatures between 150-175 degrees(F).
This is very normal and happens to everyone.
Brisket’s connective and fatty fibers melt and render out as it smokes, then redistribute and dissolve back into the meat. This is what gives pulled pork its juicy and supple texture.
However, when these tissues breakdown, the surplus liquids rise to the top of the brisket and cool and evaporate around the meat, chilling it in a process known as evaporative cooling. As the juices evaporate, the meat cools at almost the same rate at which the smoker cooks it, causing it to “stall” or plateau.
The higher the amount of fat to be broken down, the greater the evaporative cooling effect will be. This can sometimes cause the temperature to not only plateau, but also to dip abruptly.
Of course, this does not mean that your brisket is ruined. Once all of the additional juices have evaporated will the internal temperature continue to climb.
Using An Unclean Meat Thermometer
A meat thermometer is absolutely essential when smoking meats. The process is based off of temperature rather than time.
Before each smoke, the probe should be thoroughly cleaned. If it has gunk or char stuck to it from previous briskets, it can cause the readings to be inaccurate.
Essentially, your thermometer may indicate that the temperature has decreased or stagnated when, in fact, it is rising, or vice versa.
When it rains, your smoker will experience its own “evaporative cooling.”
As precipitation collects on the smoker, it will evaporate and cool it down. To compete with the cooling, you will need to regulate the ambient heat.
Winds of moderate to high strength might cause heat to be redirected away from the brisket, cooling it and leading it to stall.
It is critical that your smoker faces the wind in the direction of its natural airflow.
It’s common practice to baste a brisket while it smokes. Multiple ingredients, ranging from BBQ sauce to beer, may be used.
However, if you use too much baste, you may introduce too much moisture into the smoker, causing the heat to drop and potentially lowering the internal temperature of the brisket.
Untrimmed brisket means it has the entire fat cap intact. This means there is significantly more marbling, which means it will produce far more surplus fluids as it breaks down.
This can intensify the evaporative cooling effects, perhaps causing the internal temperature to reduce during the plateau.
A good workaround is to only trim half of the fat cap; this way, you receive a naturally succulent basting from the fat while avoiding a significant temperature stall.
Is 200 Degrees(F) Too Low to Smoke Brisket?
Brisket is best smoked at temperatures ranging from 225 to 250 degrees(F), however smoking at 200 is completely acceptable.
Keep in mind that this will be a time-consuming process, but it isn’t far from smoking at 225. At 200, it will take about 2 hours per pound of meat.
So, a 12-pound brisket, for example, may take 24 hours to fully smoke.
Can Evaporative Cooling Be Prevented?
Wrapping can help your brisket speed through the stall or bring it back from a temperature dip.
Also known as the “Texas Crutch”, this is the process of wrapping a brisket with either tin foil or butcher paper as its internal temperature rises to 150 degrees(F).
When the brisket is wrapped, the airflow around it is reduced, keeping the rising juices warmer and preventing evaporative cooling effects.
Temperature pauses and dips happen to everyone, including professionals, so don’t get discouraged. There are numerous options available to you that can not only ease but also prevent this from happening all together.
Remember these key points:
• Bad weather can affect your smoker’s temperature, so be sure to monitor and adjust accordingly.
• An untrimmed brisket will release significantly more moisture, which may cause heat loss, resulting in temperature dips.
• Monitor the amount of basting utilized, and keep in mind that the more moisture you have in the smoker, the more severe the stall will be.
• While smoking brisket at 200 degrees(F) isn’t ideal, it’s totally acceptable and will yield a tasty and melty result.